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Statement of the President of the Republic of Estonia regarding the current government crisis

19.11.2018

Dear Estonian people,

I met this afternoon with the chairmen of all three government parties to discuss the current cabinet crisis and the possible scenarios for settling the impasse. 

Eight days ago I voiced my opinion: “The responsibility to find a consensus and, where appropriate, to discuss the Migration Governance Framework – and I consider it appropriate – lies with the Government of the Republic.” I am sorry that over these eight days we have reached a situation where we no longer remember that there is always, at any given time, the opportunity to involve parliament in discussion on complicated issues. And the government is always welcome to pursue this path.

Nothing is unusual in terms of political struggle, but I am sorry that our long-term foreign policy trends, which all Estonian governments and parliaments have kept consensual, under silent agreement, over decades, have now become a tool in election battles.

Such things happen when we primarily observe people as simply the electorate and treat public opinion as percentage points. This serves to show, once again, that we need to work diligently every day, at all times, to maintain and safeguard our values. Over time, we have started to take these for granted, but this is wrong.

According to the results of a poll published today, Estonian people are most worried about the growth of extremist and populist forces and the rise of intolerance. This worries Estonian people more than some mythological Migration Governance Framework or even people who are slightly different than ourselves. 

Estonia is not in crisis. It is important to acknowledge this fact. The Republic of Estonia is working and developing and, in fact, our people are doing well. Our country is well maintained and safe, and this is what matters. However, today we can definitely say that our politics is suffering from a crisis. The main issue today is not whether Estonia supports the UN Migration Governance Framework or what impacts or otherwise it will mean for Estonia. The key issue today is to decide whether the Government of the Republic, which was sworn into office by the Riigikogu, is operable or not.

During my meeting with the chairmen of the government parties, I understood that the will to find a solution is there; however, there is not an explicit understanding as to which solution would be appropriate for all of us. We are in a cleft stick, as the old saying goes. And now we need to remind ourselves that we have a parliamentary democracy. This is a country where the people voice their will though parliament. And I do believe it is only fair to hand the issue over to the most democratic body – our parliament – to discuss the matter and to settle it once and for all. Discussing such issues at parliament level does not translate into relieving the Government of its responsibilities, but it represents the foundation of our democracy.

The parliament’s support or non-support for the Migration Governance Framework will not represent a solution to the government crisis, as the framework is not the reason but rather the cause for the crisis. However, a grassroots, transparent discussion that considers the opinion of people and the resulting decision of parliament would be step towards determining a solution, particularly in a situation whereby the majority of both the government parties and parliament parties in general support our current foreign policy trends. We shouldn’t gamble with our long-term, well-established principles. I do look forward to a prompt and statesmanlike solution to this crisis by all the leaders of the parliamentary parties, and I wish the parties the strength of mind that would bring them to the solution as fast as possible, hopefully this week.